Thursday, July 11, 2013

high weekday occupancy at auburndale commuter rail parking lot

85% occupancy, thursday, july 11, 915am.

28 of 33 non-handicapped spaces occupied. A big improvement in usage from previous observations a year ago!

This may bode well for the future parking at the new mbta lot.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Solar Sound Barrier at the Auburndale Commuter Rail Station

Plans are afoot to move the Auburndale Commuter Rail Station to the north side of the MBTA tracks, abandoning the existing south-side platform. This would create a long strip of unused land, south of the tracks, from the Woodland Rd. Bridge to the Grove/Lexington St. Bridge.

Here's an idea for productive use of that to-be-abandoned paved strip, that simultaneously serves as a much needed sound barrier: Build a sound-blocking solar array, spanning the length of the strip.

Being on the far north side of the Mass Pike, with great south facing exposure, makes this the perfect location for a solar array.  

A 15' tall solar array spanning the 1500' between the bridges would amount to about 1/2 Megawatt of power, enough to take about 100 average Massachusetts homes off the grid.  This installation capacity would exceed any existing or planned installation in the city.

This idea can be entertained after the new station is built, but for now we shouldn't foreclose the opportunity for use of that strip of pavement. Mass DOT could ask an Energy Services Company (ESCO) about the site potential and to check my numbers.

Let's generate fossil free energy, reduce traffic noise, and make a highly visible statement to all I-90 motorists about Newton's commitment to sustainability.


Friday, March 30, 2012

1065 Empty Parking Spaces at Riverside during Peak Business Hours

I counted them by eye, Friday AM, 10:15-10:45.

Here's the breakdown:

MBTA Lot: 490 Empty spaces
Riverside Center: 441 Empty spaces
Indigo Hotel: 134 Empty spaces (and only 72 occupied, for a dismal 35% occupancy).

Another way to look at this: 192,000 square feet of wasted space (actually, worse: 192,000 sq. ft of impervious urban heat island).

The gate is wide open to "visitors" - zero incentive for people to use transit.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Parking Glut at Riverside

Here was the scene at Riverside today (Thursday) at 10:15AM - when we expect maximum weekday commuter parking.
And here is empty parking in the parking garage at Riverside Center, at 10:10AM on a weekday. I counted about 150 unoccupied parking spaces. The gates in this garage were wide open - unregulated, free parking, and they still don't fill the lot. I wonder how many park-and-riders are sneaking in here.

These photos made me realize, in planning for the pending Riverside Development, we need to do homework: obtain parking data from the MBTA and the office park to analyze just how much parking is really used/needed now, and in the future. It looks like we have an oversupply.

(lest you think I am cherry picking, below are a few more views:


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

128 to become permanent parking lot

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council warns that 128 is going to see 77% more traffic between Route 3 and the Turnpike ... and then proposes band-aids: shuttle buses.

The projected increase in traffic is going to be fueled by new development. Why not meet the new demand with a supply of mass transit? Why isn't the answer new rail or bus rapid transit?


The right orientation on Boylston Street

Encouraging news on the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center front: the developer intends to re-orient the buildings to engage Boylston Street.

It’s a project that in certain respects has its back to Boylston Street, and we’re going to turn it into a project that has its back on no one.

It's a shame that NED didn't have the same attitude a block away.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ding, dong, the Atrium is dead

Wondering about the future of the Atrium, Tiffany's has been the piece that didn't fit. Given the overwhelming decline of the Atrium, why had Tiffany's stayed? With Tiffany's, could mall-owner Simon still make a go at high-end retail? Given competitor Chestnut Hill Square coming online soon, could the Atrium attract high-quality retail tenants (or retain the two that are left) without it's marquee tenant?

At least one question answered: Tiffany's is moving across the street to the Mall. (Apparently, it's been public since April. I just saw it here.)

Gotta believe that that's it for the Atrium.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hess-Mahan: Bike racks were not extorted!

I have tweaked the Board of Aldermen for extracting bike racks from Beacon Street as a special permit condition. Aldercritter Hess-Mahan weighs in with a defense:

Oy! "Extorted"? Really? Please!

The special permit laws provide that when a special permit granting authority (SPGA) approves a special permit, it may impose conditions that are intended to mitigate the impact of the project. That is exactly what the Land Use Committee and the Board of Aldermen, as the SPGA, did in this instance. The BOA granted a special permit waiving the requirement that B Street provide additional parking in Newton Centre for its proposed expansion. As a condition, Land Use proposed, and B Street agreed to require bike racks that were intended to encourage people to ride their bicycles to Newton Centre instead of driving their cars, thereby reducing the demand for parking spaces.

As the Chairman of the Land Use Committee, I have worked tirelessly with the planning department and my colleagues trying to erase the antiquated and incorrect notion that every special permit requires a "public benefit," which has no basis in the law and bears the indicia of paying "tribute" rather than providing mitigation for the impact of special permit projects.

Please do not unfairly malign our efforts to improve the special permit process. I am also working on amending the parking regulations. But until they are changed, we must apply the law as it is written.

My position continues to be that the parking requirement that necessitated the special permit application is a bad law. So, any condition put on its waiver is unwarranted.

But, Alderman Hess-Mahan deserves credit for his committee's continued good outcomes on parking waivers and for wrestling with these issues.


B Street B Racks

Updated: According to Aldercritter Hess-Mahan in the comments, Beacon Street only reimbursed the city for installation and that the cost was covered by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Makes the condition a little more palatable.

As attentive readers may recall, as part of the absolutely correct decision to grant B Street (then Pie) a parking waiver, the Land Use committee extorted from negotiated with the owners a commitment to pay for installation of food-themed bike racks.

Here they are. Around the corner from the restaurant and in front of a bank.

Maybe it's wishful thinking. With the way things are going in Newton Centre, maybe the tide has turned and the bank will be replaced by a restaurant. Doubt it.

The likelier explanation is that there is no room in front of the restaurant. The sidewalk is too mean and narrow.

At a minimum, though, the B Street-supplied racks ought to have some permanent recognition that they were donated by bStreet.


Newton Centre Racks

Here are the new racks in Newton Centre (that I've found so far). Send pictures of other new racks anywhere in Newton and I'll post them.

Next to Bigelow's on Sumner, near the corner of Langley.

In front of Tete a Tete on Beacon, near the corner of Sumner.

In front of Zoots and Peet's, on Beacon.

On the corner of Centre and Beacon, near Piccadilly Square.

At the corner of Beacon and Herrick (yes, that's Herrick, not Union), in front of Bank of America.

On Centre, near Cypress, in front of Piccadilly Square.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Maryland hand-me-downs

What a stunning denunciation of the state of our transit system that we are leasing trains from Maryland, just to keep things afloat. Maryland's investment in its system is so much better than ours that their surplus markedly upgrades our regular fleet.

Really, really deplorable.


A sign that opening day is upon us

What's in the bag? A parking meter that has been installed on Beacon Street near Audubon Circle/St. Mary's Place in Brookline. Perhaps more importantly, it's just a few blocks from Fenway. Attention-paying readers will recall that Brookline is instituting market-based meter rates on Red Sox game days as a way of ensuring that there is turnover of spaces during games. Space turnover means that businesses in the area, particularly restaurants, don't suffer because all on-street parking is consumed by game-goers.

What does that have to do with this meter-in-a-bag? You can't do market-based rates with old meters. You've got to have new technology. Hence, the appearance of this meter -- and a bunch more on Beacon. They've been installed in time for opening day and the institution of the new game-day rate policy.


Friday, March 18, 2011

High-speed rail and walking to a village

One of the key arguments in favor of inter-city rail is that it will improve opportunities for air travelers.

Last year, nearly a million people flew between Logan and JFK or LaGuardia (and presumably several hundred thousand to Newark). High(er)-speed rail between Boston and New York would provide a more competitive alternative to flying, which would reduce the demand for flights. Reduced demand for flights to and from New York would up limited terminal space and takeoff/landing slots for flights to destinations that cannot be easily served by rail, basically any place outside the Northeast corridor.

If you want more and better air travel choices, encourage rail improvements to remove congestion from airports.

That lesson scales. Better mass transit for commuters takes drivers off the roads, making less congestion for those who need to commute by car. Better bike accommodations encourages people to bike rather than drive, when they can, freeing up space for drivers who can't bike -- too far, picking up kids, &c. Better pedestrian accommodations encourages people to walk rather than bike or drive, ...

The larger point is that mobility options are not anti-car (or anti-air travel). They are pro-mobility. Everybody wins.


Magical things happening in Newton Centre

Dear Mayor Warren,

Just wanted to let you know that, sometime today, a squad of bike-rack fairies seemed to have hit Newton Centre, sprinkling magic post-and-ring bike racks all over the center.

Just wanted to let you know. Could be a city-wide epidemic.

Pics tomorrow.




Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bike lanes and priority bike lanes, what's the difference?

In light of the regulatory hurdles to "real" bike lanes in Newton, given the actual amount of on-street parking for long stretches of key roads (Beacon, Comm. Ave., Walnut, Parker, Langley, &c.), and given the necessity to provide more explicit bike accommodation than striped shoulders to attract less experienced cyclists to the streets, there's a strong case to be made for so-called priority bike lanes.

In practical terms, though, one might ask: what's the difference? The difference boils down to whether the outside, left edge of the bike lane is solid or dashed. That's it.

If the outside edge is dashed, a bike lane is not exclusive to bikes. The dashed treatment is seen wherever bike lanes cross intersections or where the bike lane slots between the travel lane and a right-turn lane. The clear intent of the lane, even when dashed is to provide a safe haven for bicyclists. It's just not as rigidly exclusive.

Where parking is currently allowed, but rarely used, the priority bike lane should be superior to the striped shoulder. It should be just as effective at keeping cars in the travel lane and out of the shoulder. It should be more effective at delineating space for bicycles, attracting inexperienced cyclists. And, if anything, it should act as a mild discouragement for the otherwise legal parking.

A net win that can be accomplished without regulatory change.

Is a "real" bike lane preferable? No question. Better to have parking prohibited, even where it's rarely used -- maybe especially where parking is rarely used, since there's little downside. But, the difference isn't worth the fight. Not now, at least. Put in priority bike lanes, which will improve accommodation and spur ridership growth. Revisit the issue when the demand is higher.